Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(FILE PHOTO | The Salt Lake Tribune) Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City.
Mormon church skips pre-session meeting with lawmakers
Politics » This year, for the first time in decades, the gatherings will take place after Legislature wraps up.
First Published Jan 24 2012 05:00 pm • Last Updated Apr 05 2012 11:38 pm

For the first time in decades, legislative leaders didn’t hold their annual pre-session meeting with LDS Church officials, but the reason for the change in the practice is unclear.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said he thinks the change might be related to heightened scrutiny the Salt Lake City-based church is subjected to as Mitt Romney makes his presidential bid.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"It surprised me. I really enjoy meeting with those guys. You don’t get a chance to do it very often," said Jenkins. "They know they’re coming under a fair amount of scrutiny this year. I think they worry about it a little more."

He said the church also took some heat over its support for moderate immigration legislation last year, and may be trying to keep a low profile.

The Utah Hospitality Association has also accused the church in a lawsuit of driving public policy on liquor-control issues. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of state lawmakers are members of the predominant faith.

"It seemed odd, because there has always been" a pre-session meeting, said House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. "But it is definitely the prerogative of the LDS Church to do it or not."

Scott Trotter, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the legislative luncheons are designed "to thank legislators for sacrificing time to serve the citizens and communities of Utah."

"As a thank-you lunch, it seemed easiest to have it after the legislative session," Trotter said.

The church has been the focal point of considerable attention during Romney’s run for the Republican presidential nomination, as it was in 2008, when he gave a prominent speech addressing his faith.

"My guess would be that they probably do view themselves as being under scrutiny for various reasons, especially since Romney is running for president," said Thad Hall, a political science professor at the University of Utah. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that church leaders meet with lawmakers.


story continues below
story continues below

"They’re an interest group like everyone else. If they want to meet with legislators, they should be able to meet," said Hall. "They’re just like everyone else. They have a right to meet."

Former state Sen. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, who served for nearly four decades in the Legislature, said Democrats had met with LDS Church officials before every session going back to the early 1980s. He said Republicans had been doing it for years before that.

Dmitrich said he enjoyed the meetings, which he described as social gatherings that occasionally touched on policy matters.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the church is staying away from issues at the Capitol. Two general authorities offered prayers to open proceedings in the House and Senate respectively. Church representatives have met with lawmakers to discuss proposed liquor reform. And the faith will likely once again be a player in immigration debates in the state.

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said he thinks that the Legislature has become so conservative that it makes it uncomfortable for the LDS Church to meet with legislative leadership.

"After so many of the Republican legislators slapped the church in the face in a way on immigration and some of these other issues I think they were less than respectful to the church," Dabakis said. "I believe the radicalization [in the Legislature] has made it uncomfortable for the church."

Republicans dominate the Legislature, outnumbering Democrats by a three-to-one margin.

Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said that he thinks the church offers valuable input on legislation, but recognizes the current sensitivity.

"I certainly think that, as issues have moved forward, whether they be the LGBT issues or alcohol reform issues or immigration issues, there is probably a greater concern about mixing of religious conversations with legislative leaders," Romero said. "Although, I would point out they are a constituent just like every other community, so having their input, having the ability to know who to talk to, is important."



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.